Gun controls, more immigrant rights among new laws for 2014
SACRAMENTO — Tighter gun controls, new rights for immigrants and a measure increasing access to abortion are among many hundreds of California laws that take effect with the new year.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature also restricted the controversial oil-drilling technique known as fracking and allowed transgender students to choose which school restrooms to use and sports teams to join, based on their gender identity.
California’s willingness to address contentious policy issues, many of which have remained suspended in Washington’s partisan divide, comes in the state’s new era of one-party rule. Democrats hold the governor’s office, every other statewide post and supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature – political dominance not seen here in more than a century.
While Congress was gridlocked on immigration issues last year, for example, Brown and state lawmakers approved more than a dozen bills on the subject.
One bars local law enforcement officials from detaining immigrants in the country illegally longer than necessary so that federal immigration authorities can take them into custody, if they are accused of only minor crimes. Immigrants would have to be charged with or convicted of a serious offense to merit a 48-hour hold and transfer to U.S. immigration officials under the controversial new measure known as the Trust Act.
The stricter gun controls were enacted in the wake of the 2012 shooting deaths of 20 students and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
One of those restrictions is a five-year ban on firearm possession by anyone who makes serious threats of violence to psychotherapists. The law requires those mental health professionals to notify law enforcement of such threats within 24 hours.
The governor signed 800 bills last year, and most of them kick in Wednesday. Others became law immediately upon his signature or will take effect later.
California’s minimum wage will rise to $9 an hour from $8, for example, but not until July 1. It will climb to $10 by January 2016.
And a new law permitting driver’s licenses for immigrants who are in the country illegally will start Jan. 1, 2015, after new DMV guidelines are developed. The agency has said it may be able to issue the first licenses late this year, if public hearings and the drafting of rules go smoothly.
The new state laws include:
Carpool access: Drivers of electric cars and low-emission vehicles will get an additional four years to use carpool lanes while alone.
Digital plates: The state Department of Motor Vehicles is allowed to test the use of license plates with changeable digital screens and wireless capability.
License fees: Fees paid by state legislators and members of Congress for special license plates showing their elected position increase to $48 from $12, and an annual renewal fee of $38 takes effect.
Paparazzi limits: Paparazzi face misdemeanor charges if they attempt to photograph or videotape a child in a harassing manner, if the image is being taken because the parent is a celebrity or other public figure.
‘Swatting’: Financial penalties are increased for those who commit a crime dubbed “swatting,” making anonymous 911 calls to police falsely claiming a violent crime has occurred — at a celebrity’s address, for example — to bring an armed police response.
Child abuse: The status of a child who is homeless, or an “unaccompanied minor,” is not sufficient to trigger laws that require the reporting of neglect or child abuse.
Homeless youths: The state will establish “runaway and homeless youth shelters” as a new kind of group home, requiring them to be licensed and overseen by the Department of Social Services.
Parents’ rights: Courts may recognize that a child has more than two legal parents so custody and financial responsibility can be shared by all those involved in raising the child.
Expungement: Some nonviolent felons sentenced to county jail instead of state prison are given the right to have their crimes expunged from their records by a judge.
GPS devices: Sex offenders who disarm their electronic trackers while on parole are required to serve 180 days in jail once they are caught.
Recording suspects: Detectives must videotape interrogations of underage suspects in homicide cases to guard against false confessions.
Investigations: State medical authorities investigating a doctor’s prescription of drugs must have access to deceased patients’ records under certain circumstances.
Penalties: “Transporting” of narcotics is redefined to explicitly mean transportation for sale, thus easing penalties for those caught with drugs meant for personal use.
Prescription drugs: Funding is restored for the operation of a database about narcotics dispensed by pharmacies in California, including such information as the identities of the prescriber and the patient.
Nanny overtime: Employers are required to provide time-and-a-half pay for nannies, private health aides and some other domestic workers if they work more than nine hours in a day or 45 hours in a week.
Refinery workers: Workers for contractors at oil refineries are required to graduate from state-approved apprenticeship programs.
Fracking: A company engaging in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — injecting water and chemicals into the ground to improve production — is required to notify the neighbors, list on the Internet each chemical it is using and test groundwater for contamination.
Water conservation: When a permit is required for alterations to single-family homes built more than 20 years ago, old toilets, faucets and shower heads must be replaced with fixtures meeting water-saving standards.
Water quality: The state Department of Public Health is required to approve water treatment devices whose manufacturers make claims that they improve health.
Changing gender: New procedures make it easier for transgender people to amend the gender and name on their birth certificates.
Infertility treatment: Health insurance companies are required to cover infertility treatment for same-sex couples.
Transgender students: Students are entitled to compete on gender-specific sports teams, and use locker rooms and restrooms, based on their gender identity rather than their sex. This law could be put on hold if a proposed referendum on it qualifies for the statewide ballot.
Food stamps: The income limit for Cal-Fresh eligibility is changed, allowing 227,000 more people to participate in the food stamp program.
Open meetings: Water companies in Maywood and other cities are required to comply with open-meeting and public-record rules that apply to other public agencies.
State marketing: Creates a “Made in California” label program to aid in the marketing of consumer goods manufactured in the state.
Ammunition clips: Kits enabling ammunition magazines to be altered to hold more than 10 rounds are not allowed.
Firearm access: Guns must be locked up in homes where felons and the mentally ill reside.
Law enforcement: Police agencies must disclose in a state database when guns are sold by representatives of the agencies to licensed firearms dealers.
Rifle safety: Those who use rifles are required to undergo safety training.
Abortion access: Abortions in the first trimester may be performed by nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physicians’ assistants, in addition to physicians.
Breast feeding: Hospitals with a perinatal unit must adopt programs to promote successful breast-feeding.
Employer threats: It is a crime for employers to induce fear in workers by threatening to report their immigration status if they complain about working conditions.
Lawyers: People in this country unlawfully who pass the state bar exam may be licensed as attorneys.
Poll workers: Noncitizens who are permanent legal residents may serve as poll workers in California elections.
Identity theft: State agencies and businesses that operate websites are required to notify people when security information, including their user names and passwords, has been breached.
Impersonation: People who impersonate others on the Internet to embarrass a spouse or romantic partner may face a domestic-violence restraining order.
Tracking software: Website operators are required to tell users if tracking technology is collecting information about their online activities.
Jail crowding: County sheriffs are allowed to reduce time behind bars for nonviolent felons assigned to jails if they complete classes intended to rehabilitate them.
LAX police: The Los Angeles International Airport police officers are given the same authority as members of the LAPD.
Shield law: Law enforcement agencies are required to provide five days’ notice to news organizations when they subpoena records involving those organizations from phone companies and Internet service providers.
Bonds: School districts are restricted in how they may use long-term capital appreciation bonds that can carry debt payments many times higher than the amount borrowed. The repayment ratio may be no more than $4 in interest and principal for every $1 borrowed.
Student abuse: School superintendents may face discipline if they refuse or willfully neglect to report teacher misconduct to the state.
Taxpayer donations: Californians can donate to a Keep Arts in Schools Fund by checking a new box on their personal income tax forms.
Athlete concussions: Like public schools, private and charter schools must remove student athletes from a game or activity if they have suffered a concussion or head injury.
Injury claims: Athletes who play most of their careers on other states’ professional sports teams are prevented from filing workers’ compensation claims in California.
Sports arena: New restrictions will make it harder to sue to block a basketball arena proposed in downtown Sacramento. In addition, environmental regulations are streamlined for many projects, including the arena, near transit stations in California cities.
Earthquake warnings: The state authorizes expansion of a network of sensors that detect seismic waves seconds before earthquakes are felt. Development of ways to relay that information to the public is also authorized.
Ticket bots: Scalpers cannot use ticket-buying software, or “bots,” that can purchase hundreds of the best seats to concerts and sporting events seconds after they go on sale online.
Transit tracking: Transit agencies issuing electronic fare cards to bus and train riders are barred from selling personal information, including travel data, that is collected each time a card is swiped.
Bobcats: Commercial trapping of bobcats is prohibited in areas adjacent to national and state parks, national monuments or wildlife refuges in which trapping is currently prohibited.
Mountain lions: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, when responding to public sightings of mountain lions, must use nonlethal methods, including capturing and tranquilizing, to remove the animal if it has not been designated as an imminent threat to the public.
Pet protection: To keep pets from being killed in traps designed to catch small wild animals, the state limits the size of “body-crushing traps” used on dry land to 6 inches by 6 inches.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.